a day in the life

Someone recently suggested that I was “living the dream”, polyamory-wise. Am I? I couldn’t say. My polyamory is facultative – it’s a response to a situation I’m in, rather than being my inherent preference for forming relationships. I never had a polyamory dream because I stumbled into it. All I can tell you is how things work for me.

Take yesterday, for example. I always sleep later than Wolf does, so when I woke up, I called to him to let him know I was awake. He cuddled with me and rubbed my neck. (My neck always hurts, so this is excellent maintenance for me.)

Due to the fact that Jaime and I live in different time zones, he’s going to bed just as I’m waking up. Sometimes I catch him still awake in my morning and sometimes I don’t. This time I happened to be awake earlier than usual, so we had a little chat by text before he went to bed.

Wolf isn’t working right now and I work from home. I had one work thing that went well, followed soon after by an unanticipated problem: I was shocked to be treated incredibly rudely by someone in another organisation that I’ve recently started working with. Fortunately, this was by email. Also fortunately, I have a much better sense of my worth now than ever before, I knew this person was out of line, and I knew how I was going to deal with it.

Wolf heard all about this in real time and gave me an ear, a shoulder, hugs or distance, whatever I needed. He’s also profoundly protective of me, so he got almost as I upset as I did, meaning this kinda fucked up his mood.

Wolf went out to provision, then put together my lunch for me. Lunch is super easy – just assembly – and I wouldn’t mind doing it myself, but Wolf likes to look after me. Lunch is served with a kiss on the forehead.

I’m very happy to leave the cooking to Wolf so he makes supper too, ensuring that we’re done in time for whatever I’ve got going on in the evening. Twice a week, that will be dance class. Two other days per week I have my FaceTime call with Jaime. This day was a call.

Wolf busied himself in his office to give me some privacy for the call. Jaime had just woken up so hadn’t heard anything about my day yet. I told him all about it – the good stuff and the bad. He congratulated and commiserated with me. He reinforced my sense of worth, validated my perception of the problem, and praised me for how I handled it.

I let Wolf know when the call was done so he could come out of ‘hiding’, and we went about the rest of our evening.

At bedtime I chatted with Jaime briefly by text and we exchanged goodnights. When I was done, it was time for bedtime cuddles with Wolf and then sleep.

I don’t know if I’m living the dream, but this works pretty well for us.

NYE with Rosa: a coming-out story

New Year’s Eve, a day marking an arbitrary end point on the yearly cycle, doesn’t mean a great deal to me. I didn’t expect it to coincide with a real ending and new beginning.

I went out for coffee with my good friend, Rosa, as we do about once a month. We’re surprisingly alike in the sense that I think we were both surprised to have found someone so much like ourselves. We’ve shared a lot with each other, which is something that neither of us do readily – we’re both introverts, highly sensitive, cautious, self-sufficient, etc.

I’ve told her plenty about the family difficulties I had a few years ago that led to serious personal growth and ultimately (though indirectly) the creation of this blog. I told her about the blog itself (its existence, not the URL) at least a year ago and she treated it as a total non-issue. (She has never really asked me about it which I’d interpreted as disinterest, but now I wonder if she has refrained from asking about it because she’s leaving the decision whether to share entirely up to me. She’s like that.)

She takes privacy and confidentiality very seriously and is as much of a dead end for confidences as I am so I knew that I could trust her with the information.

I’d been thinking about telling her about Jaime since I’d told her about the blog, if not before, because, frankly, Jaime is much more exciting. But caution, as always with me, prevailed. I suppose I worried that she’d judge me as “cheating” on Wolf.

At some point my reason for wanting to tell her had gone beyond “hey, something fun is happening in my life” to “this relationship is really important to me and not sharing it feels inauthentic, like I’m cutting off a part of myself”. The last couple of times we met up, I’d been actively thinking about telling her. The same was true this time and it popped to mind from time to time while we chatted.

After a couple of hours Rosa looked at the time and announced that we should probably think about leaving soon; it was in fact the time when we would ordinarily leave, but we’d gotten there 30 minutes later than usual so I wasn’t ready to go yet. Also, for the previous 10 minutes, I’d been thinking seriously enough about confiding that I had begun to feel nervous. Fuck it. I took a deep breath, smiled and stared off into space somewhere beside her head while I tried to figure out what to say.

I’d thought so much about the fact of telling her but I never considered the words themselves. I don’t really remember what I said ­— something about having something I wanted to tell her but wasn’t sure how to say it — and when I paused to take a breath she said, “I’m all ears!”

So I took another deep breath and, by way of preamble, told her that this was something that no one* knew about, except for Wolf. But … I was also in a relationship with someone other than Wolf.

From there the conversation is even more of a blur. I remember that she started a sentence with “He” and then caught herself — “Is it a he?” — and I said yes, and she continued on with her sentence. How sweet, I thought, that she should be so conscious of not making assumptions about me, and that she has also pre-emptively accepted that I might be bi. But then I don’t expect anything less from her.

Though she hadn’t guessed or predicted it, she said that in a way she wasn’t surprised because she figures I already live a bit outside the box. She didn’t know whether I would take that comment well or poorly, but I found it reassuring. I suppose it’s comforting when someone knows you well enough to expect you to be weird and to be open enough to difference to be OK with that.

She did a lot of the talking and I really don’t remember what she said, though I recognised at times that she was filling the silence with a stream of comforting words to say, “I see you, I (still) like you, and I approve of you.” She recognised that the relationship with Jaime was something I hadn’t undertaken lightly, and respected the fact that I was circumspect about the effects on Wolf and Jaime (and others).

I didn’t tell her a great deal about Jaime — I didn’t even mention his name. I did explain that he’s the person I was visiting on certain of my recent trips. She and I don’t really talk about sex, so it didn’t make sense to lead with that aspect of the relationship but I told her about some other things that make Jaime special to me: that I feel deeply loved by him and that his emotional support is unwavering.

She basically was cool with it all and happy that I was happy. On top of that, she was very happy that I trusted her that much to tell her about it. And she told me she loved me.

Throughout it all, I found myself on the verge of tears despite not being sad or upset. I think it was just the intensity of the vulnerability, like holding my ribcage open for an hour, hoping she wouldn’t reach in and crush my heart.

She shared a couple of personal things with me too, though not so intense. An hour and a half after I launched into this confession, we decided it really was time to leave.

And that’s why I began 2018 feeling happy, accomplished, and even more full of love than before.

 

* I also mentioned it briefly to Lucas, after he first confessed his own BDSM-based poly situation; and to a mutual acquaintance of Rosa’s and mine who I unexpectedly ran into at a play party, after she first confessed her own queer poly situation.

F4TF: mono-poly

This week’s question:

Monogamy – do you think it is our natural inclination?
Are you in a monogamous relationship or do you you live a polyamorous life?
If you are monogamous, is it by choice? Do you find it easy or is it a struggle?

When I see the word “natural” I tend to go into sceptic mode – though that would suggest I occasionally leave sceptic mode, and I’m not sure that’s accurate. “Natural” is often used as a shorthand appeal to “natural law”, which is a set of moral principles that can theoretically be arrived at objectively. Beware! And it tends to be tied up with a confusion between is and ought, which in this case could take the form of “people in most cultures are monogamous, therefore all people ought to be monogamous.”

I don’t know if it’s actually true that most cultures subscribe to monogamy, and there are problems with definition, such as: does monogamy mean only one partner in a lifetime, or does serial monogamy (including marriage ending in divorce) count as a type of monogamy? and, if a significant proportion of people in a monogamous culture cheat on their spouses, is the culture really “monogamous”?

Humans are complex creatures. There’s a tremendous amount of individual variety, and the family and culture you grow up in have a massive impact too. We don’t have a great deal of instinctive behavior because we are intelligent and learn virtually everything we need to know in order to survive.

I’ve mentioned before that I considered myself strictly monogamous (in the serial monogamy sense of the word) until recently. I much prefer having few close friendships rather than a bunch of acquaintances, and I’d rather get to know someone one-to-one rather than while hanging out in a group. I focus. I’ve never had any difficulty with monogamy, was never tempted to cheat. When Wolf and I started seeing each other, we spent all our free time together for the first, oh, ten years or more. The longest we’d ever been apart was about a week. And then when he started studying in the UK, we emailed and Skyped daily.

But I also felt rather isolated and it turns out that I need more human connection in general. When I met Gawan online, I had no idea where things were going to go, I just let them unfold as they would, and it didn’t take long before I developed an attachment and the relationship became romantic (though not in a familiar form, due to the distance and other circumstances). I wasn’t expecting it nor was I looking for it, and I ended up having some emotional work to do, but I was interested to find that this relationship hasn’t resulted in any diminishment of my feelings for Wolf at all. (If it had, I would have pulled the plug on the new relationship.) I’ve since realized that I suffer from something of a love and affection deficit, and so now having the love of two people feels really nurturing to me. So I suppose I’m somewhat polyamorous now. (It’s complicated by the fact that the relationship with Gawan is long distance, so the practicalities involve email, Skype, and occasional big trips rather than setting up a date night etc.)

I don’t really identify as “polyamorous”, and I’m not sure it’s the most accurate term but it’ll do for now. Whatever this is, it’s a kind of ethical non-monogamy. Are monogamy and polyamory simply functional descriptions of how you arrange the relationship(s) that you have? Or are they entrenched orientations – like being heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual – such that you can identify as one or another even when you’re single? I certainly feel more mono than poly, but how much of that is my authentic identity and how much is culture and habit?

Romantic attachment parallels parent-child attachment, and most children have an attachment to two parents. I won’t say that romantic attachment to two partners is therefore “natural” or some kind of should, but maybe it’s not entirely unnatural. We are a social species and we seek connection.

I’m not looking for any new relationships. And if I found myself in only one romantic relationship again, I wouldn’t go looking for someone to fill the vacancy. But I probably won’t look at “friendship” and “romantic relationship” as rigidly defined, mutually exclusive categories anymore either.